RHODE ISLAND, A SMALL STATE WITH A REPUTATION FOR A ROTTEN POLITICAL CULTURE, HAS HAD A RATHER REMARKABLE RUN OF SENATORS IN RECENT DECADES. HOW TO EXPLAIN IT? Most corruption in Rhode Island is at a local and state level, so maybe when it comes to the US Senate, voters hold candidates to a superior standard. And maybe the best of our politicians aspire to this most distinguished body — and not, say, a town council or mayoralty with a culture of sleaze. For all his personal quirks, Pell certainly represented the best a public servant can be and voters appreciated that. He served six terms and never lost an election.

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